GMO foods and their relationship with world hunger

Published 9:30 pm Monday, August 15, 2016

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been in the headlines a lot with discussion about whether GMOs should exist in our food system. And if they do, do consumers have the right to know?

Recently, a bi-partisan bill was passed by Congress and signed into law requiring GMO labeling on packaged foods. But there are loopholes.

Food processors can choose from a variety of ways to reveal this information to the consumer, from the on-package label that those who are proudly not using GMO in their food product might choose, to learning of the presence of GMO in the food through a scannable QR code, or through, get this, a call-in information hotline.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Why so many loopholes for seed and food corporations in a bill that Congress passed as a result of a literal revolution of thousands of scientific research findings alongside millions of consumer demands for the right to know? As a staunch opponent of GMO in our seed and food supply, I say labeling — obvious and proud, or covert and hard to spot — is not enough.

Meanwhile, I talk with people and read “the other sides” arguments all the time, including very close family members, who say we should stop bashing GMO foods and rather that we should laud them. They say GMO seeds, crops and foods are the great answer we’ve all been waiting for, to deliver nutrients safely and as an end to world hunger.

I say that their argument might stand up if the world not having enough food was the problem. It is not. Geo-politics, greed and corporate domination of the world’s resources is the problem. Reducing the complex and entrenched problem of hunger can be solved when these issues are dealt with honestly and transparently.

Don’t believe that? Then ask the world’s 500 million farmers cultivating small plots of land with millions of them living on less than $2 per day. They are literally on the field every day and they will tell you that inequities in the systems, institutions and governing structures which privilege political careers, banking systems, the extreme wealthy and their corporate ties, are what feed world starvation. That communities left alone to save seed, pass down age-old farming practices, work with nature not against her, and are incentivised to care for their own, can begin to reverse the process of community and thereby world hunger.

In my years working locally in social movements and with small farmers, I’ve seen what the science of GMOs means to them and to me. It means a major threat to dignity in the art of farming and to the preservation of seed for future generations. Through a friend who has moved to Southeast Asia, I saw and learned that in developing countries, where, for instance, rice is a daily staple for millions of people, that it’s large land grabs by GMO proponents like Monsanto that force these small farmers into growing their Golden Rice with promises of constant job security and personal wealth as a farmer.

And when these promises fail them, their fields are now owned by the corporate big ag giant and they are forced into cities with few job prospects and thereby growing hunger.

The groups that are funding the science behind bio-technology, that move their kingpins into high banking, political and corporate office, that go on to experience vast personal profit from the labors and loses of common people within their massive globalized systems and owe accountability to no one, these are the real reasons food is ever scarce.

There is much more to dig into and learn as the usage of GMOs in our food system and the conversations around them continue. We must stay vigilant, take action, and keep our awareness of what’s at stake if we want to preserve our natural right to take care of ourselves, our economies, our environments, and the future of our children and their children through the food we grow, prepare and consume.